Romanian pianist expected to dazzle at Pacific Piano Competition

Bogdan Dulu is one of the competitors at Richmond’s Pacific Piano Competition, which returns to Gateway Theatre after a three-year absence.  - Wim Weymans photo
Bogdan Dulu is one of the competitors at Richmond’s Pacific Piano Competition, which returns to Gateway Theatre after a three-year absence.
— image credit: Wim Weymans photo

Bogdan Dulu’s mother had a simple dream—she wanted her young son to play the piano.

Dulu was born in 1984 in the midst of harsh political repression in Communist Romania. It was only after the revolution that Dulu, at age six, touched a piano for the first time.

He began lessons with one problem—he didn’t have a piano. Mom pushed ahead with her dream anyway, drawing a keyboard on paper so her son could practise.

Today, at 26, Dulu practises on grand pianos while studying his craft and collecting musical accolades along the way. He’ll try for another at the Pacific Piano Competition, Feb. 23 to 26 at Gateway Theatre.

The 13th edition of the international contest for pianists is returning after a three-year absence. Nearly 40 competitors, ages 17 to 28, will compete for bragging rights and a $5,000 cash prize. Local competitors will test their mettle against talent from Beijing, Moscow, Japan, Toronto, New York, Dallas and Pittsburgh.

Dulu arrived here six months ago via New York City, where he completed a master of music degree at Mannes College of Music. He is now a doctoral student at University of B.C.’s school of music. Last month, Dulu won the 2011 UBC Concerto Competition, and on March 4 he’ll make his debut with the UBC Symphony at the Chan Centre.

In an interview with The Richmond Review, Dulu shares his thoughts on his promising career.

How does playing and studying music here differ than in Romania?

“Romanian music education is quite different from the one I experienced in North America. Each major city has a public art high school...therefore kids are professionally trained from a very early age. My concern is that somewhere in the process of moulding young artists, something happens: a certain lack of engaging students in creative thinking and challenging the process, doubled by a lack of up-to-date information of what happens in the real world, creates flaws.

“This is where the North American system is by far superior—the graduate school. I find the environment, the level of interest, and the resources so extraordinary and inspiring, that I am glad I have been able to experience both sides.”

What music and composers are you especially fond of?

“I find great joy and inspiration in the music of Bach and Mozart. I also have a very special connection with the music of Bela Bartok and George Enescu, the unjustly neglected Romanian genius. Although their musical language is completely different, I found myself immersed in their Eastern European roots.

“Lately, I have started discovering the music of Dinu Lipatti, ‘the prince of the piano,’ who died at the age of 33. His works are extremely limited and virtually unknown, so I have decided to bring them to larger audiences, which includes Canadian and North American premieres coming up in March here in Vancouver.”

What has been your most memorable public performance so far and why?

“Any performance followed by standing ovations is always a memorable one for me. And I am happy to have had quite a few of those.”

Many budding professional pianists have gone before you. What do you think sets you apart?

“Everyone is unique in their own way. Although I do competitions, I don’t really like to compare myself with others. I don’t consider myself an artist, at least not yet. It takes an enormous amount of time to become one, to have your own voice, to be what you really are, and that is what I feel I am doing right now. I am in constant search for my musical self.”

What are you looking forward to most in the competition?

“I want to hear the feedback of both the distinguished panel of judges, as well as the audience. Winning a competition is one thing, leaving an impression is something else.

“As life in music has taught me so far, there’s always a turn when you expect the least. Five years ago I would have never thought that Vancouver and New York would be my temporary homes. And here I am, in Canada, studying with the acclaimed Jane Coop to become a doctor in what it used to be for me a paper keyboard.”

Pacific Piano Competition

•Feb. 23 to 26 at Gateway Theatre.

•Auditions 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Feb. 23 and 24; Semi-final round 7 p.m. on Feb. 25; final competition 7 p.m. on Feb. 26.

•Pianists compete for prize of $5,000 in front of judges Alvin Chow, Robin McCabe and Janet Scott-Hoyt

•Tickets, $5 to $15, at gateway theatre.com or 604-270-1812

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